Columbus Commercial Dispatch

MSU lands $7.2 million Army contract

By Alex Holloway

Mississippi State University has secured a competitive $7.2 million federal contract to help the U.S. Army test unmanned aircraft systems technologies. 

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith's (R-Mississippi) office announced the contract in a press release on Friday. 

The contract, according to the release, runs through February 2021 and is to test and validate emerging unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technologies. It's funded through research, development, test and evaluation appropriations provided to the Army. 

"Mississippi State University leads in researching and development of UAS technologies, and this expertise will be put to work to support a growing reliance on unmanned aircraft systems for national defense purposes," Hyde-Smith said in the release. 

MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter pointed to the university's ongoing success with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research as a factor of its success in getting the contract. 

The Federal Aviation Administration selected MSU to host its National Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in 2015. MSU also leads the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE), a collective of 23 universities across the United States that Salter said is helping to craft the nation's UAS policies as the field continues to develop. 

Salter also thanked Mississippi's federal legislators for bolstering the effort to get the contract. 

"Mississippi State is extremely gratified for the work that Senator Hyde-Smith and Wicker and other members of our congressional delegation have been able to do in support of the university's ongoing status as the FAA's Center of Excellence for the study of unmanned aircraft systems," Salter said. "(Friday's) announcement is a ringing endorsement of the caliber of work that MSU scientists and engineers are doing in this exciting field."